Many old time Dubuquers are aware Timmerman’s Supper Club was built on a bluff by Helen Timmerman. But I wonder how many know Helen Ihm was one of 13 children and joined the Black Franciscan Order at age 16? She taught school and left the Order six years later. Three years after that, in 1936, she married Robert Timmerman.
Helen began her career in the restaurant business when she went to work at The Chateau Supper Club. At the time The Chateau was a swinging place. It was located on Highway 52 North of Dubuque and it was owned by Lefty Dalsing. He was known for featuring big name bands like Harry James, Count Basie and Dubuque’s own Paul Hemmer Orchestra.
Helen learned the restaurant business and after a few years she and her husband opened a bar in Happy Corners, WI and soon after took over The Chateau. She had Timmerman’s built in 1961 and quickly acquired a reputation as a colorful character. She always wore long, flowing gowns and if you tried to get into the Club dressed inappropriately she would throw you out. In true supper club fashion Helen insisted you first visit the bar and have a few drinks before being seated for dinner. She ruled the club until she retired in 1985 at the age of 74.
Now back in the day supper clubs were high class establishments. They were prevalent mostly in the upper Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. Usually located on the edge of town most clubs operated all night providing cocktail hours, good food and nightclub style entertainment. Of course, today they aren’t open all night and they function like regular restaurants. There aren’t too many left either. There are just a few in the Tri-State area.
Today Timmerman’s is co-owned by Mark and Jodi Hayes and Gary Neuses. Mark and Gary were both hired at the club by second owner Dave Thiltgen. Mark started as a dishwasher and Gary began as a bartender. The dishwasher and the bartender became good friends. And it didn’t take the third owner, Juan Rodriquez, too long to discover Mark and Gary knew everything they needed to know to run a first class showcase restaurant. In 2003 Juan gave the two men the opportunity to take over the business. So between them Mark and Gary have over 50 years experience at the same location.